Enoch’s 4 Keys to Smooth Transitions

An important attribute for having a happy and successful life is the ability to make smooth transitions. Why? Because transitions are one of the most inescapable features of life.

Instead of remaining a baby, we transition to childhood. After childhood, we encounter numerous changes as we shift into our teen years. After that, we’re invited to mature into an adult…a senior citizen…and, after we die, a citizen of eternity.

There are many other transitions along the way, and they’re never stress-free.

While it may be exhilarating to go from singlehood to matrimony, the transition isn’t easy. And sometimes the marriage ends, either because of the spouse’s death or an unwanted divorce, requiring a whole new transition.

You probably have experienced numerous other transitions. Perhaps you’ve been downsized at work and have bounced from job to job. Or maybe you’re navigating the opportunities and perils of retirement. Or perhaps you’ve come to point of losing your independence to assisted living.

Each transition has its own unique challenges. Although we sometimes go kicking and screaming into the next phase of life, there’s no way to keep things the same forever. Like it or not, we must keep moving on in our journey.

Enoch’s Amazing Story

Recently I found myself thinking about the remarkable transition made by a famous man in the Bible: “Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him” (Genesis 5:24).

The Good News Translation says, “He spent his life in fellowship with God, and then he disappeared.” And The Message paraphrase explains that after he “walked steadily with God…one day he was simply gone: God took him.

Even though we’re not given much additional information about Enoch’s startling transition, the New Testament puts him in the Hall of Fame of Faith: “It was by faith that Enoch was taken up to heaven without dying – ‘he disappeared, because God took him.’ For before he was taken up, he was known as a person who pleased God” (Hebrews 11:5 NLT).

Most people just get old and die, but Enoch was snatched off the earth seemingly in the prime of his life. No reason is given, except that God chose to take him.

Despite the sketchy details of how this happened, Enoch’s story can teach us some very important lessons about handling life’s transitions:

  1. As much as possible, prepare yourself for the transition.

Enoch was as ready as he could be for his sudden departure. He had walked closely and consistently with the Lord, lived a life of faith, and maintained a reputation as someone who pleased God. Perhaps his abrupt passage into heaven could be explained by the fact that he had passed the tests of his earthly sojourn and was now ready to advance to the next phase of his journey.

Nothing prepares us better for heaven than to faithfully serve God’s purposes while on the earth. You’ve probably met people who are living for the devil today, yet plan to give their lives to Jesus on their deathbed. Bad idea! Today is the day of salvation, and if someone hardens their heart now, they’re unlikely to repent “just in time” for heaven.

But Enoch’s story isn’t just about “getting to heaven.” Instead, it illustrates that the line between heaven and earth is actually a lot thinner than we may have thought. Enoch was already experiencing a certain amount of heaven in his daily relationship with the Lord, having so much fun that eternity probably seemed like an unexpected bonus.

Did Enoch experience any trials and tribulations along the way? Undoubtedly so. However, nothing prepares us better for the unexpected catastrophes of life than to follow his example of already having a firm foundation of trusting and obeying the Lord (Matthew 7:24-27).

His example also encourages us to avoid spiritual stagnation or getting “stuck” somewhere in our journey. The description of Enoch “walking with God” implies motion – a life of continual growth and progress. Sometimes Christians focus so much on their “new birth” experience that they fail to do what’s necessary to keep developing in their faith. In contrast, Enoch was growing in intimacy with God right up to the time his earthly life ended.

In recent years, I’ve been intrigued by the “suddenlies” mentioned in the Bible – stories about God giving people a dramatic breakthrough in a moment of time. Enoch certainly experienced one of these “suddenly” moments when the Lord unexpectedly snatched him from the earth. But notice: Years of preparation occurred before this breakthrough moment. Enoch had willingly undertaken the slow, steady process of walking with God before his sudden transition to the gates of heaven.

This is such a great lesson for us. If we’re hoping for a supernatural breakthrough in our health, finances, emotions, or family, God may require us to patiently prepare our hearts and take small steps of faith before the miracle happens.

  1. Experience the next phase in advance.

To the watching world, Enoch’s sudden translation into heaven probably seemed to come “out of the blue” and without warning. He was just out taking a walk, after all! He wasn’t even sick when God decided to take him.

However, maybe the transition wasn’t nearly as sudden as it seemed. Reading between the lines, it’s apparent that Enoch had already tasted of heaven during his daily walks with God. You see, even in this present life, we can experience “the powers of the age to come” (Hebrews 6:5).

Once again, the story provides a principle about transitions. Before the day when we enter fully into the portals of heaven, we can have heavenly encounters with the supernatural realm. Remember the ladder between heaven and earth that Jacob saw in Genesis 28?

It’s also interesting that the Israelites tasted some of the fruit of the Promised Land before actually entering into their inheritance there (Numbers 13:20).

So let’s get practical in applying this lesson to life’s transitions:

  • If you’re getting ready to be married, you’re wise to spend time being mentored by those who already have strong marriages.
  • If you’re about to become a parent, it’s important to learn from others who’ve successfully raised their children.
  • If you’re planning to launch your first business, it’s vital to spend time with entrepreneurs who have displayed wisdom in building their own company.
  • If you sense God calling you into some role of ministry, it’s smart to find others who are already functioning in that same calling.
  • If you’re getting ready to retire, there’s much you can learn from those who have already successfully made that transition.

The point is this: Before you transition into a new chapter of life, you should do the best you can to get a taste of that next phase in advance.

  1. Let go of your present circumstances so you can embrace the upcoming stage of your journey.

While we don’t know much about Enoch’s circumstances, it was clearly necessary for him to let go of his earthly life in order to move forward into his heavenly life. I’ve always loved the analogy of a trapeze artist, who must let go of one trapeze in order to transition to the next. But although it may be exhilarating to watch a trapeze artist, the process is much more hazardous than it looks.

Yes, people often cheer when a preacher says, “God is doing a NEW thing!” But let’s get real: Most of the time, we would prefer to hang on to the familiar and the comfortable. Moving into unfamiliar territory is usually frightening, and perhaps that’s why God warned the Israelites, “You have not passed this way before” (Joshua 3:4).

Years ago, I experienced a stunning example of this requirement to “let go” in order to experience God’s next assignment. My Grandpa Fraggiotti had congestive heart failure and eventually passed into a deep coma. This went on for a number of days, and there was no change in his condition. We sensed that, out of sheer determination, he was fighting to stay alive. Perhaps this was caused by fear of the unknown, or maybe he simply didn’t want to leave his loved ones.

Even though he was unconscious, we decided to share with him some comforting words about the transition he was about to make. We reminded him of God’s love and of the fact that he had publically given his life to Christ many years before. We also assured him of our love and of our confidence that we would one day all be together with him in heaven.

Surprisingly, within about an hour of our “conversation” with Grandpa, he simply quit breathing. After many days of fighting to hang on to life, he peacefully relinquished himself to God (Luke 23:46).

You probably aren’t yet facing a crossroads like Grandpa Fraggiotti was that day. However, his story beautifully illustrates the necessity of letting go before you can move on. This principle applies not only when you’re standing at death’s door, but to every other transition along the way.

  1. Pour your life into the next generation.

Many other people in Enoch’s generation outlived him. From an earthy perspective, this may seem sad, or even unjust. Yet this shows that the real question is never the amount of years in our life, but rather the amount of life in years. To be honest, some people live lives that are so inconsequential that it’s as if they never lived at all.

When you dig a little deeper into Enoch’s story, you find that his son Methuselah lived longer than anyone else who ever lived! What a great lesson about raising up kids, grandkids, or other young people who can go much further in life than we ever could.

For example, remember how Elijah mentored Elisha? Although Elijah was an incredible man of God, the Bible records that twice as many miracles were performed by his protégé Elisha.

Likewise, Jesus made an astounding prediction about the impact His followers would have: “He who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father (John 14:12).

At first glance, you may not see any connection between equipping the next generation and getting ready for your own transitions. But think about it: Until others are raised up to do what you are currently doing, it makes no sense for you to transition into some greater role. Preparing the next generation for success is a critical component in transitioning to the next phase of your journey.

Fear Not!

If you follow Enoch’s four principles, transitions never again need to be a scary process. You’ll be well prepared for each new step in your journey, confident that God is moving you “from one degree of glory to another” (2 Corinthians 3:18 ESV).

So go ahead and walk with God today and every day. If you do, your earthly life will be filled with “goodness and mercy,” and someday you’ll step into eternity – able to “dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (Psalm 23:6).

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Ketogenic Spirituality

I recently gained an important spiritual insight from an unlikely source. I was listening to a radio program touting the benefits of a new weight-loss craze called the Ketogenic Diet.

The basic concept of the Ketogenic Diet is that you should only consume calories during 8 hours of the day, such as from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. The remaining 16 hours should be spent burning off the calories you’ve already consumed and the fat that’s already stored in your cells.

“Most of us Americans could live a long time just by burning our fat deposits,” the program host confidently pointed out. “Yet because we keep taking in more and more calories, the energy in those fat cells is never utilized.”

DISCLAIMER: This blog is not meant to be an endorsement of the Ketogenic Diet or any other approach to weight loss. I’m just exploring a similar spiritual principle.

Listening to this program, I was fascinated by the parallels between physical and spiritual obesity. Both conditions are the result of taking in more nourishment than we utilize. When we consume more food calories than we burn, the excess is stored as fat – and the same principle holds true when we consume an excess of spiritual calories.

Let me explain…

Me and Ezra

I’ve been a Christian a long time, ever since I was 18. I’ve heard countless sermons, listened to thousands of hours of Christian broadcasting, and read a myriad of books, magazines, and blogs. Not content to with secondhand spiritual nourishment, I’ve also spent a lot of time in personal Bible study.

I guess you could say I’ve been well nourished spiritually. For the most part, that’s a good thing, because I’ve met many Christians who seem malnourished and stunted in their spiritual development. Maybe they’ve been born again, but they’ve never learned the importance of receiving and digesting the truths of God’s Word.

So I’ve been blessed by the spiritual nutrition I’ve received.

Nevertheless, I’m troubled by the fact that much of the spiritual input I’ve received has never been implemented. I can quote a lot of Bible verses I’m still not walking in, and that’s a problem: It’s a prescription for becoming spiritually fat  without becoming spiritually strong.

In contrast, Ezra is a great example of a Biblical leader who practiced “ketogenic” spirituality. Look at this beautiful description of his life:

Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the Lord, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel (Ezra 7:10 ESV).

Notice the 3 key verbs in this passage: STUDY…DO…TEACH. All 3 are necessary for well-rounded discipleship, yet very few of us are following Ezra’s model.

If we study  (or listen to sermons) without doing  and teaching, we will inevitably become spiritually flabby. But if we study with a commitment to put the lessons into practice and then pass them on to others, we’ll become spiritually strong, and our life will have great impact.

One of the reasons Jesus taught with such authority  was that He not only had studied the Scriptures, but He also had put them into practice. In the same way, people will only respond to our teaching to the degree in which we’ve first implemented the teachings in our own life.

Fallow Ground

In addition to Ezra 7:10, I’ve found myself convicted by another Bible passage lately:

Sow for yourselves righteousness;
Reap in mercy;
Break up your fallow ground,
For it is time to seek the Lord,
Till He comes and rains righteousness on you
(Hosea 10:12 NKJV).

What does it mean that we must break up our “fallow ground”?  NIV translates this “unplowed ground,”  while NLT says “hard ground.”

I picture this as fertile ground God has given us, but which we’ve never taken time to plow and develop. Like the unutilized calories described in the Ketogenic Diet, we’re sitting on untapped potential.

So let’s get personal: What are some things God has given you, but which are currently lying dormant and unproductive?

Here are a few examples to consider:

  • Spiritual gifts or natural aptitudes you’re not doing anything with. Peter warned that God has gifted you, and you’re called to USE your spiritual gifts to serve others (1 Peter 4:10).
  • Excess money in your savings account or retirement fund that could be invested for Kingdom purposes. It would be tragic to follow the example of the fearful servant who chose to bury the resources his master had entrusted to him (Matthew 25:14-30).
  • A God-given dream for an invention or business you’ve never set in motion. A vision that isn’t written down or communicated to others is simply hot air, worthless in making an impact (Habakkuk 2:1-3).

It’s time to start burning your spiritual fat reserves!

My 3-Year Plan

Here’s the backstory on why I’m so grieved about this issue of unplowed ground and unutilized vision…

God recently brought to my attention that I have written more than 8 books that no one has ever read. And that’s not counting several smaller booklets that are already completed, nor the books I’ve started but never finished.

Do you see how horrible this is? Much of the “ground” God has entrusted to me still hasn’t been plowed and put into production.

This is unacceptable…even sinful! In the next 3 years, I must do everything I can to break up my fallow ground and utilize these resources the Lord has put in my hands.

Perhaps you noticed that Hosea 10:12 not only issues a challenge for us to seek the Lord, break up our unutilized ground, and sow seeds. It also contains a wonderful promise, that if we do those things, He will send us rain and grant us an abundant harvest.

So what are we waiting for?

In my case, time is already ticking on my 3-year plan. Like any good plan, it will never come to pass without focus  on my part and favor  on God’s part.

What is God calling YOU to do in the next few years? If you hear His voice, today’s a great day to get started toward your legacy (Hebrews 3:14-15).

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Does Anyone Believe in You?

With four seconds left in the game and trailing the Saints, 24-23, Vikings quarterback Case Keenum lofted a desperation pass to Stefon Diggs near the New Orleans 35-yard line. After Diggs went high in the air to snag the pass, coaches yelled at him to get out of bounds so the Vikings could attempt a last-second field goal.

But Diggs disregarded his coaches. When no one tackled him, he decided to head for the end zone instead of going out of bounds. In one of the most amazing finishes in NFL playoff history, he went untouched to a 61-yard touchdown as time expired.

If you didn’t see the play, you may want to check it out on YouTube.

After the game, Case Keenum said it was the third happiest day of his life – behind the day he gave his life to Jesus Christ and the day he married his wife.

Pretty cool…

Yet I was even more  struck by something Stefon Diggs said after the game, as he fought back tears of joy and disbelief. “My coach believed in me…my quarterback believed in me…and God believed in me,”  he explained.

I don’t know much about Stefon’s background. But reading between the lines, I wondered if he was implying that his coach, his quarterback, and God were the ONLY three who really believed in him!

Most of us have faced some naysayers along the way, and it’s a powerful experience when you know someone truly believes in you.

That’s why one of my favorite Bible verses is 2 Corinthians 7:16, where the apostle Paul writes, I rejoice that I have confidence in you in everything.”  Although most people have never given much thought to this verse, it contains a life-changing principle, especially when you realize who Paul was writing to.

You see, the Corinthians were his “problem church.” Paul’s letters reveal that they were seriously divided, with factions supporting various human leaders. They also argued about spiritual gifts, meat offered to idols, and even Jesus’ resurrection. The squabbles were so intense that the Corinthians were taking each other to court before the city’s secular magistrates.

Even the Lord’s Supper had become a problem. While it was supposed to be a unifying practice in the church, it has become a travesty in Corinth, a total embarrassment. Meanwhile, the church was tolerating blatant immorality among its members, and no one was doing anything to confront the misdeeds.

If all this dysfunction wasn’t enough, Paul realized that many of the Corinthians no longer respected his leadership – even though he had been used by God to bring them the Gospel.

How would you  handle a church like this?

Even though you or I may have been tempted to just knock the dust off our feet and have nothing further to do with the Corinthian believers, Paul had a quite different approach…

I rejoice that I have confidence in you in everything.”

Doesn’t that sound ludicrous based on the condition of these wayward Christians? Well, yes, it sounds pretty crazy…unless you understand one of Paul’s most important leadership secrets: His confidence in the Corinthians was based upon His confidence in the Lord.

“Such confidence we have through Christ TOWARD GOD”  (2 Corinthians 3:4 NASB).

Is there someone today you’re struggling to have confidence in? Perhaps you’ve lost hope that anything will ever change with your spouse, a son or daughter, or someone in your church or workplace.

We’ve all come to that place at one time or another, losing hope that those around us will ever change. And to be honest, sometimes they don’t  change.

However, the basis of Paul’s secret was his confidence that God would answer his prayers and turn things around in the people and situations that concerned him. For example, immediately after telling the Philippians of his constant prayers for them, he made this beautiful declaration of confidence in how they would turn out:

“I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus”  (Philippians 1:6 NASB).

I can’t help wondering where Stefon Diggs would be today if someone didn’t believe in him. For that matter, where would you or I be if God hadn’t sent friends and mentors to encourage us and believe in us?

Perhaps you’re struggling today, feeling like no one expects you to succeed. Maybe your parents, your spouse, your children, your friends, or your boss have expressed their displeasure and their doubts – and perhaps you don’t even believe in yourself.

If so, remember Paul’s message to the Corinthians. While things didn’t look very good on the surface, he bet on God to turn things around and complete the work He started.

Even with only four seconds left on the clock, with God’s help you just might score the winning touchdown.

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The Great Adventure…or the Great Yawn?

 

Leaving nets

Recently I’ve been reflecting on the stunning passage of Scripture where Jesus tells some fishermen in Galilee, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19). Captivated by this teacher and miracle-worker—later revealed as the Son of God—these men “immediately left their nets and followed Him.”

Think of how radical their response was. Without protesting or asking questions, they each left their livelihood in order to pursue an uncertain future as a follower of Jesus.

You see, right from the beginning, the Christian life was meant to be a GREAT ADVENTURE. But let’s be honest: Many of us who follow Jesus today have settled for a humdrum, risk-free brand of discipleship. Instead of being a great adventure, our lives could be described as a GREAT YAWN.

You’ve probably heard the principle: No risk, no reward. And often the greater the risk, the greater the potential reward.

Yet when was the last time you took a true step of faith in following Christ—some kind of action that would really cost you something if you got it wrong?

Well…a series of events, some expected and some not, have come together recently to propel me once again toward a more adventurous Christian life:

  • My landlord decided to sell her house instead of renew my lease when it expired at the end of April.
  • My daughter Abbie and her husband Hamish had my first grandbaby a few weeks ago, all the way in New Zealand.
  • Hearing my initial plan to visit Abbie for about 10 days, my awesome boss suggested I take a longer period—even a month or two—“to figure out what God wants to do with the rest of my life.”
  • Once again, my initial plan changed when I set out to find a new place to live after my sabbatical. Although I looked at several houses and apartments, I haven’t sensed peace about any of them at this point. So…believe it or not, I’ve moved everything I own into storage until I return. My only mailing address is a box at the UPS Store: 9789 Charlotte Hwy, Ste 400 #221, Fort Mill, SC 29707!

Right now I’m scheduled to be back in my office at Inspiration Ministries on June 19, but that’s about all I know at the moment.

When I tell people about this season of new adventures in my life, they nearly all respond, “Wow, Jim. That’s really exciting!”

Yes, it IS really exciting. But it’s also a bit scary! It’s like jumping out of an airplane and hoping your parachute will work.

I’m looking for people to join me in the GREAT ADVENTURE. Of course, I would value your prayers, and I would love to have you click this link to make a special donation to Crosslink Ministries: http://smplfy.cm/2pJozpo

But even more than that, I invite you to join me in the fantastic adventure of drawing near to God and listening for His instructions for your life. Rediscover what it means to trust the Lord and let go of the things of this world.

Genuine faith is exhilarating…FUN! But it’s surely no fun being in a rut and sleepwalking through life.

The Bible says God has an open door for you, and He’s beckoning you to enter in: Come up here, and I will show you things which must take place after this” (Revelation 4:1-2). Will you heed the call?

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Getting Back on the Trapeze

Trapeze 1

When you learned how to ride a bike, you probably fell down a few times. Hopefully, you got back on and tried again.

The same principle applies to many other things in life—such as relationships, careers, and ministries. You can’t allow momentary failures or setbacks to keep you from picking yourself up and giving things another try.

At the same time, there’s another principle to remember when you begin again: Usually there are some things you must let go of, even as you are reaching out toward new things ahead.

From time to time, I find myself humming an old tune, which seems an apt prophetic picture of where many of us find ourselves today:

He flies through the air with the greatest of ease,

The daring young man on the flying trapeze.

Just as a circus trapeze artist must let go of one trapeze and fly through the air until grabbing the next one, I’ve often found myself in a similar position—flying through the air in transition between the trapeze left behind and the one still to come.

Perhaps you can relate. You know you aren’t where you used  to be, but you’re not where we’re going to be either. You find yourself flying swiftly through the air, on your way to a coming trapeze that’s not yet entirely visible.

It must be an exhilarating experience for a trapeze artist to fly through the air like that. But I’m sure it’s also terrifying to know the force of gravity will take its effect if the next trapeze doesn’t soon come within reach.

This process of “letting go and moving on” is part of God’s plan is to take us “from one degree of glory to another” (2 Corinthians 3:18). And while this process is exhilarating at times, it’s easy to feel apprehensive when you have nothing to hang onto except the Lord Himself.

Experienced trapeze artists realize they dare not look down or they’ll miss the next trapeze. Big mistake!

Fortunately, God’s intention is not only to keep us from falling (Jude 1:24), but also to enable us to soar on eagles’ wings (Isaiah 40:31). The next trapeze is not a demotion but part of the “upward call of God” (Philippians 3:14). He’s taking us HIGHER!

If you’ve had some mishaps on the trapeze before, you may feel wary about getting back on. But despite the dangers, this is no time to play it safe. If you insist on clinging for dear life to your original trapeze, you are certain to make no progress at all. You’ll only go higher when you exhibit the courage of “the daring young man” who defied gravity and reached upward.

Just as God challenged people in Bible days, He would say to us today: “Be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9 NLT).

So go ahead and have courage to let go of the past. Press forward and let Him strengthen you for exciting new adventures on His flying trapeze.

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Comfort Zones & Coffins — Is There Really a Difference?

comfort zone 4

Over the past few years, I’ve met many people who’ve been wounded by life’s traumas. Some have gone through the agony of divorce or betrayal by a business partner. Others lost a loved one or were fired from a job.

After we’ve been traumatized, our tendency is to pull back and try to avoid further risks. We opt to play it safe and stay nestled within our comfort zone.

But I’ve found that comfort zones are a lot like coffins. In a coffin you’re already dead, but in a comfort zone you’re slowly dying. This seems like a distinction without much of a difference.

So…when was the last time you did something outside your comfort zone? When did you take a risk in order to get something you wanted or to advance toward a God-given dream?

You’ve probably heard the old maxim about turtles: They only make progress when they stick their neck out!

When was the last time you stuck your neck out?

In sixth grade I wrote the best poem of my life, and it was all about risk-taking. I must have been in a cynical mode that day, as you’ll see by the poem’s ending…

The ant, the ant, hid under a plant,

For he was afraid to be seen.

His friends had been crushed, and trampled and brushed,

By creatures much larger and mean.

 

So all day he stayed, and huddled and prayed,

But his hunger made his cowardice fade.

He jumped out and said, “BE BRAVE TILL YOU’RE DEAD!”

As a foot came down on his head.

As I reflect on the lessons in this, my greatest of poems, I feel sorry for the ant. I’m not particularly sorry for how his life ended, but rather for all the time he wasted playing it safe in his comfort zone.

The tragedy for many people is not how their life ended, but the sad fact that they never really lived. During the interval between their birth and their death, they seldom made a difference in the lives of others.

The ant in my poem was hiding under a plant, but I can’t help but wonder where you might be hiding today. Perhaps you are hiding from your true calling or hiding from the risk of loving someone deeply once again.

The ant threw his cowardice aside because he got hungry. I pray today that you will regain your hunger to fulfill God’s highest purposes for your life. May you hunger for “more,” and may your hunger be so intense that you cast your fears aside.

Be brave, my friend! There’s no other way to find real life.

“The person in right standing before God through loyal and steady believing is fully alive, really alive.” – Habakkuk 2:4 MSG

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New Births & New Beginnings

skipping

On January 25, 1969, I experienced the miracle of the new birth when I asked Jesus to be the Lord of my life.

If you’ve never been born again, the experience Jesus described to the religious leader Nicodemus in John 3:1-8, you’re really missing out—not just in this life, but in eternity as well. There’s no other way to become a “new creation,” where “old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

However, lately I’ve been meeting lots of people who’ve already experienced the new birth, yet now they need something else: a new beginning.

You’ve probably met these folks too. They tell you something like, “I got saved back in 1995, and everything changed.” However, the more you get to know these well-meaning believers, the more apparent it becomes that something’s drastically missing. Maybe Jesus forgave their sins and stamped their ticket to heaven many years ago, but now they seem stuck in a dreary, unappealing religiosity.

Other religious folks eagerly tell you about the day they got “filled with the Holy Ghost.” But although that may have been a glorious day, now you can’t help but wonder if their filling with the Holy Ghost somehow leaked over the years. The love, joy, peace, and other fruit that’s evidence of being filled with the Spirit is nowhere to be found in their life anymore (see Galatians 5:22-23). Perhaps it’s time for a Holy Spirit “refill.”

I’m not trying to be mean. But these observations are unmistakable and troubling.

The reality is that we all need new beginnings at various points in our lives. The Bible is filled with stories of mighty heroes of the faith who needed a fresh start at one point or another:

  • Abraham was 100 and Sarah 90 when everything changed for them at the birth of their child Isaac (Genesis 21:5, 17:17).
  • Jacob experienced a new beginning when he saw a ladder reaching to an open heaven (Genesis 28:10-22), and then his life was transformed even more when he wrestled all night with God (Genesis 32:24-32).
  • Joseph suddenly went from the prison to the palace and became the Prime Minister over all of Egypt (Genesis 41:14).
  • Moses’ life was radically changed at age 80 when God spoke to him from the burning bush in the backside of the desert (Exodus 3:1-22).
  • Gideon was living in fear and self-preservation right before the Angel of the Lord appeared and commissioned him as a “mighty man of valor” to defeat the Midianites (Judges 6:11:24).
  • David desperately needed a new beginning after his adultery and murder were exposed (2 Samuel 12, Psalm 51).
  • Elijah was weary, depressed, and practically suicidal before God gave him a new purpose in life: mentoring the next generation (1 Kings 19:1-21).
  • Paul’s experience on the Damascus Road would surely be considered a new birth. But he later experienced several new beginnings too: when Barnabas got him involved in the church at Antioch (Acts 11:25-26) and when the Holy Spirit commissioned him and Barnabas to plant churches across the Roman Empire (Acts 13:1-4).

This is just a small sampling of the Bible’s stories about people who experienced a new beginning. If the Lord was willing to give these people a fresh start, don’t you think He’s able to give YOU one as well?

In the Gospels, Jesus triggered new beginnings everywhere He went. The list includes the woman at the well (John 4:1-30), the woman caught in the act of adultery (John 8:3-11), Lazarus raised from the dead (John 11:1-44), Jesus’ discouraged disciples receiving new hope after cowering behind locked doors in the wake of His cross (John 20:19-23)—and many more.

Do you see the message here? Even though I’m thrilled if you’ve experienced the new birth, it may be time for a new beginning as well. The good news is that God gladly offers to provide one when we ask Him (Isaiah 42:9, 43:19).

That means you don’t need to live a purposeless life or remain stuck in quicksand. Nor do you have to flounder in a sea of frustration and hopelessness.

But let me be clear: New beginnings aren’t always easy and pain-free. You could be required to make a geographical relocation and leave friends and loved ones behind (Genesis 12:1-4). You may need to wrestle with God until your hip is out of joint, or He could totally reroute your life by speaking to you from a burning bush.

You shouldn’t t be surprised if you have to strip off some graveclothes, as happened with Lazarus (John 11:44). And don’t forget about Elijah if your new beginning starts in a cloud of depression while you’re having a “personal retreat” in a dark, damp cave.

Finally, let me ask: Has God already given you some instructions for launching your new beginning? If so, this is no time to procrastinate or be bound by fear.

You see… the best way to get a fresh start is to get started!  Even if you don’t know where the path will lead, today you could take a step of faith that dramatically impacts your future.

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What to Do When the Brook Dries Up

 

brook dried up 2

One of the most baffling experiences in life is when you’ve sincerely endeavored to follow God’s will, only to find that His provision seems to be drying up. Yet this is something experienced by just about everyone at one point or another.

Even the prophet Elijah faced this. The Lord had given him explicit instructions to go to the Brook Cherith, “And it will be that you shall drink from the brook, and I have commanded the ravens to feed you there” (1 Kings 17:2-7).

There’s an old maxim that says, “Where God guides, He provides,” and this was Elijah’s experience for many days as he sat by the brook. Plenty of clean, cool water to drink, and the ravens brought him bread and meat twice a day. It was a pretty nice life, carefree in every way.

But when God wants to bring us to an important transition point, He often allows our “brook” to dry up. This is bewildering, because we’re certain the Lord has used the brook to provide for us in the past. We’ve been following His will, and it’s hard to imagine our carefree life ever coming to an end.

However, through no fault of Elijah, his circumstances began to change: “It happened after a while that the brook dried up, because there had been no rain in the land”  (v. 7).

Ironically, the brook dried up as the direct result of Elijah’s obedience  in telling King Ahab there would be no rain “except at my word”  (v. 1). Without rain, it was only a matter of time before the brook would run out of water—but all of this was part of God’s plan.

Perhaps you can relate to Elijah’s experience. Maybe the job that provided income for you and your family for many years is drying up. Or the thriving church that once nurtured your faith is now a lifeless pile of dry bones. Or perhaps you find yourself in a marriage that has grown cold and dry, with no solution in sight.

So, what can you do when your brook dries up?  How should you react when some life-giving stream of God’s blessing is no longer bringing you the provision and nourishment you need?

Here are some thoughts…

  1. Thank God for how He used the brook in past seasons of your life. Instead of cursing the dry creek bed, be grateful for the sustenance it once brought you.
  2. Be grateful that a new season—with fresh provision—is right around the corner. When your brook starts to dry up, you should get excited instead of depressed! Since the Lord has promised to be your provider in every season, you can look at the future with great anticipation.
  3. Let go of any false nostalgia about the “good old days” when the brook was full of water. Yes, God used the brook to bless you in the past, but now you can trust Him for even BETTER things in your future. Don’t let past blessings become an idol that hinders you from embracing the next season of your life.
  4. Listen for a new set of instructions. Elijah knew God had told him to go to the Brook Cherith—and Elijah had obeyed. But now it was time for some new instructions, which God was faithful to provide: “Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, ‘Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and dwell there. See, I have commanded a widow there to provide for you’” (vs. 8-9). If you want a fresh start, you will need to listen for fresh directions from the Lord. The new instructions may cause you even greater bewilderment, and I’m sure Elijah wondered how some widow he’d never met was going to provide for him. Are you willing to trust God anyway?

Here’s a brief prophetic thought on this important message: The world is entering a season when many of the “brooks” we’ve been relying upon are going to dry up. It has never been more crucial to trust God and obey His instructions. If we do, the new season can be far better than the previous one. If we don’t, we could find ourselves sitting next to a dry creek bed, wondering what happened to the water and the ravens.

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Whatever Happened to My Inner Child?

Jim touched up

I once read a book by a psychologist who said we all need to get in touch with our “inner child.” I never really understood what he meant by that. But I thought it might help to hang this picture of me on my office wall.

Although that solution hasn’t helped me much yet, I haven’t given up the search for my inner child…

As you can see by this picture, I was a free-spirited hell-raiser as a child. You probably were too, if you’ll be honest.

When people see this picture, with my hands lifted high, I tell them I was just worshiping the Lord. But I think you can see that something much different was going on—something mischievous and out of control. Cameras don’t lie, after all.

And when I was in preschool, the teacher sent a note home to my parents, saying, “Jimmy is too free with his hands.” Hmmm… I’ve always wondered what she meant by that.

Lately I’ve found myself wanting to regain some of the unshackled aspects of the Jimmy Buchan in this picture. Fun-loving. Carefree. Emotionally expressive. Outside the box.

Whatever happened to that inner child? I guess he “grew up” along the way. Aided by college and law school degrees, marriage, kids, car payments, mortgages, and job transitions, I became more serious and sophisticated. I learned to keep my spontaneous outbursts to a minimum and was no longer “too free with my hands.”

But this new maturity came at a price. The carefree Jimmy  was replaced by a burdened-down Jim—dealing with the cares of life, concerns about the future, and worries about what other people think of me.

And this grownup Jim became a lot more “religious” than Jimmy the toddler, and I don’t mean in a positive way. On my good days, I’m convinced that Jesus loves Jim. But sometimes I think He might like Jimmy even better.

The Gospels describe the Pharisees as people who thought they could enter into favor with God by being more circumspect, serious, and “under control.” It must have been quite shocking when Jesus told them the door into His kingdom was to become like little children again (Matthew 18:1-5, 19:13-14).

My daughter Abbie once had an experience that illustrates this. When she was four years old, she had a dream in which she was in heaven, “playing with Jesus.” Through the eyes of a child, it makes perfect sense that Jesus would be playful and fun-loving. But through the eyes of a religious person, that makes no sense at all.

So please pray for me to rediscover my childlike faith—the fun-loving, uninhibited inner child who delights in life and enjoys the simplicity of knowing Jesus.

And I’ll be praying for you too.

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The Strange Story of Apple’s Forgotten Founder

Ron Wayne

By now, just about everyone on the planet knows that Steve Jobs founded Apple Inc. Many people also realize that Steve Wozniak was a cofounder when Apple was launched 40 years ago.

But the most intriguing founder of Apple was Ron Wayne, the third member of the team. Wayne had a 10% stake in Apple when it began, but he soon relinquished it because of fears of personal liability if the company didn’t do well.

In an attempt to explain his decision, Wayne later said:

There would be significant bumps along the way, and I couldn’t risk it. I had already had a rather unfortunate business experience before. I was getting too old and those two [Jobs and Wozniak] were whirlwinds. It was like having a tiger by the tail, and I couldn’t keep up with these guys.

Because of these fears, Wayne surrendered his share of Apple for just $2300. Today 10% of Apple would have been worth about $70 billion.

Ron Wayne’s choice to bail out of Apple may well have been the worst financial decision in human history—losing out on $70 billion just to play it safe.

But before we’re too hard on Wayne, we each should ask ourselves whether we’ve made similar bets. Have we missed out on God’s provision because we feared failure and were unwilling to take the necessary risks to succeed? Have we bailed out of some enterprise too early, right before our breakthrough came?

Perhaps you have regrets about some decision in your past, wondering what might have been if you had hung in there a little longer. As Ron Wayne predicted about Apple, there will be “significant bumps along the way” if you do the right thing. But the payoff might be beyond your wildest dreams.

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